KLAMATH FALLS — An automatic berth to the NAIA women's basketball championships eluded Southern Oregon University on Monday night, and now a long two days of waiting begins.
The Raiders erased almost all of an Oregon Tech 18-point second-half lead but couldn't get over the hump in the title game of the Cascade Conference Championships, falling 88-72 at Danny Miles Court.
Kassi Conditt and the second-seeded Owls (28-5 overall), ranked 21st in the NAIA, completed their dominant run through the tournament and secured a spot in the national tournament March 12-18 in Sioux City, Iowa.
Conditt, a 6-foot-2 senior post, had 26 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks, finishing SOU off with 10 points in the last five minutes. She averaged 23 points and 13 boards in tourney wins over Corban, College of Idaho and the Raiders.
Fourth-seeded SOU (25-8) trailed 48-31 when the Owls got Conditt's 3-point play and Ashleigh Vandenbrink's 3-pointer on the first two possessions of the second half. It was 57-43 when Kristen Schoenherr and Allison Gida combined for 13 points during a 15-4 run that cut it to 62-58 with 9:40 left, but got no closer.
The Raiders will hold out hope for an at-large bid to the NAIA championships when the 32-team field is announced Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Schoenherr, limited by foul trouble to 15 minutes, scored 11 of her team-high 14 points in the second half and added six rebounds.
Carly Meister recorded 13 points and six rebounds, Autumn Durand had 11 points and six rebounds, and Ashley Claussen finished with six points and six assists.
Schoenherr, Gida and Ashley Claussen were all forced to sit with four personal fouls by the 8:30 mark in the second half. All three, along with Meister, eventually fouled out.
The tournament title was the first ever for the Owls, and they became the fourth different CCC tourney champion in the last four years. They completed a season sweep of the Raiders, who have lost four straight in Klamath Falls by double figures.
OIT had three more players in double figures: Karly LeVeque (16 points), former North Medford standout Karissa Dixon (13 points, seven assists) and Maria Ramirez (10 points, six assists).
The Owls held SOU to 37.3-percent shooting, including 9 of 31 in the first half.
The Raiders also had trouble breaking through the last time they were here on Feb. 15, when they shot 15-for-59 and lost 87-54.
The struggles extended to the free-throw line, where the Raiders made 18 of 36.